What are Carbon Credits and How Does It Work?

What are Carbon Credits and How Does It Work?

In the global fight against climate change, carbon credits have emerged as a pivotal tool for businesses and governments aiming to mitigate their environmental impact. However, understanding what carbon credits are, how this mechanism functions, and recognising its complexities is essential for entities committed to genuine sustainability.



What is a Carbon Credit?


A carbon credit is a permit that allows the holder to emit a certain amount of carbon dioxide or the equivalent amount of a different greenhouse gas. Typically, 1 carbon credit is equal to one tonne of carbon dioxide (CO2e) emissions.


How Carbon Credits Work


Carbon credits are part of a broader carbon market, where these credits are traded to offset emissions. Entities that emit less than their share can sell their surplus carbon credits to others needing to offset their emissions. This market-based approach incentivises companies to invest in more efficient technologies and greener practices.



The Benefits of Carbon Credits


Using carbon credits can provide flexibility in how companies manage their emissions and help fund environmental projects. The carbon credit price can act as a financial signal to encourage carbon-lowering strategies. Companies can buy carbon credits when direct emission reductions are challenging or expensive.


Criticisms and Backlash


Despite the benefits, carbon credits have faced a significant backlash:


Perceived as a License to Pollute: Critics argue that carbon credits allow companies to pay their way out of genuine emission reductions, essentially buying a license to continue polluting.


Questionable Impact of Offset Projects: Many projects funded by carbon credits have been criticised for overstated benefits or failing to provide the promised environmental impact.


Lack of Transparency and Regulation: The carbon credit market sometimes suffers from a lack of transparency, which can lead to fraud and mismanagement.


Pitfalls of Relying Solely on Carbon Credits


Carbon credits should not be seen as the only solution for reducing emissions. Reliance on offsets can divert attention from necessary operational changes that can provide more sustainable and significant environmental benefits.


The effectiveness of carbon credits is often hampered by inconsistent valuation methods and fluctuating carbon credit prices, which can undermine long-term planning and environmental strategies.



Creating Real Impact with a Holistic Sustainability Roadmap


While carbon credits play a role in the broader environmental strategy, they are insufficient on their own to create substantial change. Developing a holistic sustainability roadmap involves:


Direct Emissions Reductions: Implementing on-site renewable energy solutions, enhancing energy efficiency, and innovating towards less carbon-intensive business models.


Sustainable Supply Chains: Engaging with suppliers to improve their carbon performance and integrate sustainability into procurement processes.


Measure your business carbon footprint: Regularly measuring and managing carbon outputs to identify reduction opportunities and comply with global standards.


Leveraging Sustainability Reporting Tools: Using comprehensive sustainability reporting software to ensure accurate data collection, reporting, and decision-making.


Snowkap supports businesses in not just purchasing carbon credits but in creating effective sustainability strategies that contribute to real and lasting environmental impacts. Explore our carbon management software to see how we can help your business achieve its green objectives.




Understanding and integrating carbon credits is a step towards sustainability, but it’s not the whole journey. By establishing a comprehensive approach that includes direct action and strategic offsets, businesses can ensure their sustainability efforts are both impactful and credible. 





How does a carbon credit work?

A carbon credit is a certificate that represents the right to emit one metric ton of carbon dioxide or an equivalent amount of a different greenhouse gas. Businesses and organisations can either earn carbon credits by reducing their emissions below a certain threshold or can buy them to offset their emissions. This system is designed to incentivise the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by making it financially beneficial to emit less.


How much is 1 carbon credit worth?

The value of one carbon credit can vary significantly based on supply and demand in the carbon market, regulatory environments, the quality and type of the project generating the credits, and global economic factors. Prices can range from a few dollars to over fifty dollars per ton of CO2e. For current and specific pricing, one would typically look at major carbon markets or exchanges.


How can I generate carbon credits?

Generating carbon credits usually involves engaging in activities that reduce, capture, or prevent the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere beyond what would have occurred in a ‘business as usual’ scenario. Common projects include:


Renewable Energy Projects: Such as wind, solar, or hydropower, which generate clean energy and displace fossil fuels.


Methane Capture: Capturing methane emissions from landfills or agricultural operations and using it for energy production.


Reforestation and Afforestation: Planting trees to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere.


Energy Efficiency Improvements: Upgrading facilities or processes to consume less energy and emit less CO2.


Once these projects are verified by a third party to ensure they meet certain standards, they can generate carbon credits that can be sold on the carbon market.


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